John Hopkins and Suzuka

The following release is from John Hopkins' publicist...

Factory Suzuki Grand Prix rider John Hopkins completed the final round of pre-season testing in Suzuka, Japan, today in preparation for the kick off of the 2003 World Championship season on April 6 at the Suzuka Circuit. The testing did not go as well as Hopkins would have hoped, but despite being down on the final test time results, he feels like there was progress made with the team’s redesigned GSV-R.

“The first day of the test we had a lot of little nagging problems that kept us from really getting in a lot of laps,” Hopkins said. “Today I got a good number of laps in, but with the new chassis, I needed to come into the pits a lot so the team could make adjustments. They probably went through at least 10 major settings changes during the course of the day. We’re definitely still in the early stages of development of the bike, which will continue into the season. The new chassis enabled me to hold better lines through the corners, so the team is making progress even though the times didn’t necessarily show it.”

Another challenge facing Hopkins is learning the highly technical Suzuka Circuit.

“Most of the riders here have a lot of experience at Suzuka,” explained Hopkins, who qualified 18th and finished 12th at the circuit last year. “I raced here once before and a lot of these guys have raced here many times, including the Eight Hour, so I’m still learning something every time I make a lap here.”

Hopkins feels his preparation and training during the off-season have put him in the best shape of his life. His training regime included hours at the gym and on the motocross practice track each week. He feels confident that Suzuki will continue to improve the GSV-R and that he’ll be running at or near the front at some point this season.

Having former World Champion Kenny Roberts Jr. as a teammate has been a big boost to 19-year-old Hopkins.

“Kenny is a great teammate,” Hopkins says. “He’s already passed on so much knowledge to me. It’s great because we share information freely with each other and that teamwork should really help us develop the bike more quickly.”

It’s no secret that Hopkins and Kenny’s little brother Kurtis Roberts were not best of friends after several controversial run ins during heated AMA Supersport battles a few years back. When asked if that subject was ever brought up with Kenny, Hopkins replied.

“Yeah, we talked about it,” Hopkins smiled. “Kenny just laughed and told me that Kurtis got on his nerves sometimes too.”

Hopkins said that he and his chief mechanic Stuart Shenton would spend the next few days analyzing the data obtained in the most recent test. Hopkins and girlfriend Desiree will try to take in some sights around Suzuka in the next few days as well.

“Suzuki gave us a Burgman scooter,” Hopkins said. “Those things are deluxe! It’s a great way to get around here. Suzuka is not that big of a city, but there is a shopping mall here so we’ll check that out and maybe if the weather is good just do some touring around on the Burgman.”
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George Obradovich
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